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Friday, September 28, 2007


This week, a new TV season has just gotten under way. This means welcoming back my returning series and deciding which all-new series pilots I'm going to sample to determine whether I want to watch the show. As every TV series that I commit to represents 30 minutes to an hour out of my week, and I have a lot of other stuff I'm into with my work, I have to be very careful in selecting new shows. What helps me immensely in this endeavor is that I've always been a well-informed viewer. I have the impression that most people treat television as "a disposable medium," something that you just turn on, look at, and turn off, to which you pay no other attention. Most people don't actually bother to learn anything about television: Who makes it, what kinds of decisions go into it, why and how things get on the air and what happens to them along the way, things like that. We know, for example, who writes our favorite books, who records our favorite music, even in many cases who directs our favorite films. But TV? From much of the public, television doesn't seem to get the same kind of attention. Quick, what's your favorite show? Okay, now: Who are its producers? Who are its writers? Can you follow their work to other shows that they may do? I'll bet you can't. Television is the single most powerful cultural influence on the planet. But I'm convinced that a lot of the rubbish that has gotten on the air, and continues to get on the air, is at least in part the result of people treating the medium itself as rubbish.

I've never been like that. I remember occasions when people have accused me of being too caught up in something as "passive" as television, as if I were just sitting like a lump and staring hypnotically into a screen, and being spoon-fed a lot of electronic pap. I wish I could go back and slap them for that. There has never been anything "passive" about my TV viewing. I'm probably more "active" when I watch something than 90 percent of the other people in the audience. Not only do I pay better attention to the medium itself, as I described above, but as a storyteller I watch for concept, plot, subplot, subtext, theme, characterization, dialogue--all the craft of telling a story. And I read TV Guide every week to be better able to identify and find shows of quality. If more people watched television the way I do, a lot of fine series that died before their time might have lived (just last night I was watching one of my DVDs of the 1980s Twilight Zone--one of the best-kept secrets in all of television), and the creative standards of the medium might have been raised.

Of course, there's a lot to recommend the creative standards of the medium right now. Hal Linden, the star of Barney Miller, used to say that the most remarkable thing about TV was not how bad it was, but how good it was. What he meant was that given everything that goes into getting a show on the air at all, it's extraordinary that there is even such a concept as quality television. Today, enormous strides have been taken in terms of content and storytelling. There is some amazing writing being done for the small screen. There are certain shows that I watch and consider myself lucky and privileged to be on the receiving end of such creativity. For instance, my three current favorites: Heroes, Dr. Who, and Desperate Housewives. Amazing stuff! Also Nip/Tuck, Lost, Kyle XY, Eureka... When I see things like this actually getting onto networks' schedules and finding receptive and appreciative audiences, I'm convinced that we are truly in a golden age of television. The people behind all these shows truly know how to tell great stories. There is terrific popular art being made in this medium today, and we need to learn to appreciate it.

At present, my viewing schedule is divided into a Summer Season, which is just ending, and a Fall Seaon, which is just starting. There is some overlap between the two, as some of my summer shows have either not finished yet or are just wrapping up (Eureka). This summer just ended was one with a couple of surprises. I had expected it to be lighter than it turned out to be. However, The History Channel brought out The Universe, an excellent documentary miniseries about astronomy and astrophysics, which was irresistible; American Movie Classics started Mad Men, the most twisted, perverse, and intriguing cable series outside of Nip/Tuck; and Sci Fi Channel started an all-new version of Flash Gordon, which I was enthusiastic about at first but am weighing whether I'm going to continue watching if it has a second season. I ended up with more summer television than I had planned on, but by and large they were hours well spent. As of this week, I have sampled the new fall series Dirty Sexy Money (a show that I wish had a different title; it's a little embarrassing) and find it interesting in a vein similar to Soap and Desperate Housewives. I don't know if I'm going to be making this an appointment show yet, as if I pick it up there may be a conflict with Nip/Tuck, but the pilot was worth the look. The fall series in which I'm most interested, which from what I've been seeing in TV Guide has the best chance of becoming one of my weekly appointments, is Pushing Daisies. I'll make my call about that one when its pilot airs next week.

For my Summer Season, I have one optional show. I call it "optional" because it's really an appointment show, but I have a friend who gets me DVDs of the episodes in advance, so by the time it actually starts airing I've already seen the whole season. This is my present number-one series, Dr. Who. If it's on Sci Fi and I feel like watching it, I'll tune in, but I can miss it without feeling the loss because I've actually already seen it. It's good to have friends with connections...

Anyway, the following is my own carefully selected viewing list:

FALL SEASON (September to May)

Desperate Housewives (ABC)

Heroes (NBC)

Nip/Tuck (FX)

Lost (ABC)

Smallville (The CW)

Supernatural (The CW)

Potential fall pick-ups: Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies (both ABC)

SUMMER SEASON (May to September)

The 4400 (USA)

Kyle XY (ABC Family)

Eureka (Sci Fi)

Mad Men (AMC)

Meerkat Manor (Animal Planet)

Dr. Who (Sci Fi, optional)

Flash Gordon (Sci Fi, continuation undecided)


All My Children

General Hospital


First half hour of Jay Leno

I should probably also note that I have been looking at The Days of Our Lives lately, but that is a very conditional show for me. If it didn't star an incredible specimen of young male beauty named Brandon Beemer and former All My Children player James Scott, I would not have started looking in on it. But really, you've got to see Brandon Beemer to believe him (his character's name is Shawn Brady; he's a recast from a boy named Jason Cook), and even then you may not believe what you're seeing. Check him out in the Days of Our Lives section of Shrine to the Soap Hunks, which is in my Blog links.

Whatever you're watching this season, try to watch good stuff and have fun doing it!

PS. A couple of other quick notes before I close out this Blog: Sci Fi Weekly reports this week that the Star Trek film to be released for Christmas 2008 has cast the history-making role of Lieutenant Uhura. The Communications Officer of the 23rd Century Enterprise will be played by Pirates of the Caribbean star Zoe Saldana. I have to admit I'm very ambivalent about the idea of doing a recast of the 1960s Star Trek and possibly reworking Gene Roddenberry's original vision for the Trek universe (actually this latter possibility truly makes me shudder), but elaborating on that right now would be a whole other Blog, which is best saved for another time. I'm sure we'll be talking about this again.

Also, as if I needed something else to do on the computer, I've joined a new Listserv this week, a Yahoo! Group that I simply could not resist: Rod Serling's Twilight Zone of Imagination. When I found out there's an E-mail List for Rod Serling fans and Zonies, I was on board faster than Donna Douglas running from the gargoyle doctors. (And if you are a true Zonie, you must know what I was just referring to.) We are definitely going to be having a lot of Twilight Zone talk here at The Quantum Blog over the holidays. In the meantime, if you'd like to get in the Zone, go to

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This week’s Quantum Blog was going to be about the new Fall TV schedule and my own personal lineup of shows. But we’re going to have to save that for next week, because for now it’s time for the first entry in what I expect will be a series: My Pet Peeves.

Pet Peeve #1: Perhaps my single greatest Peeve of them all--INCOMPETENCE AND INCONVENIENCE.

Among my links to The Quantum Blog is an online store called Tales of Wonder, located in Georgia. It is from Tales of Wonder that I buy all of my big-ticket comic book and graphic novel items, the stuff for which I don’t want to pay full price. And I’m going to preface this by saying that my Pet Peeve is NOT directed at Tales of Wonder. Far from it, in fact: Tales is an excellent vendor. They offer very generous discounts; their customer service people are as friendly, helpful, and efficient as you’ll find anywhere; and their service and order-fulfillment are Johnny-on-the-Spot. Tales of Wonder itself gets only my highest recommendation.

However, the United States Postal Service—in particular whatever roomful of monkeys the Post Office has working in Springfield, Massachusetts—is getting to be a damn good argument for letter-bombing.

To explain: DC Comics this year has begun to favor us by releasing the entirety of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World in hardcover Omnibus volumes. If you don’t know the work of Jack Kirby, my first question is what are you doing reading this Blog, and my immediate direction to you is to look him up and find out about the single most important, influential, and powerful storytelling and artistic imagination that ever worked in comic books. Just for your cultural literacy, you need to know and appreciate who this man was and what he accomplished. The Fantastic Four, Captain America, the Hulk, the Marvel Comics Thor, the original X-Men, the Silver Surfer: These and a great many more are all creations of Jack Kirby. It is no melodrama or exaggeration to say that Jack’s work IS the history of comics. Anyway, The Fourth World is the collective title given to Jack’s most ambitious and personal work, a story of a war between gods that took up three comics of Jack’s own creation—The New Gods, The Forever People, and Mister Miracle—with peripheral parts of the story appearing in the unlikely quarter of a Superman spinoff, Jimmy Olsen. I’ve always wanted to have Jack’s saga, which is the great unfinished masterpiece of comics (DC stupidly cancelled all the books before Jack could finish the story, which is a topic for another Blog) in a nice, bookshelf-type format. I could have asked for a better paper stock to have them printed on (Marvel puts all of its collected editions on a nice glossy stock, which Jack’s most ambitious work deserves), but still, this is something that I really wanted. And with the discounts that Tales of Wonder offers, this was where I wanted to get it.

So, late last month I ordered Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Volume 2, which contains the entire story of “The Deep Six” from The New Gods; the tale of the Forever People enduring the tortures of Desaad’s Happyland and facing Darkseid’s terrifying Omega Effect; and the first appearance of Mister Miracle’s bombshell girlfriend and future wife Big Barda, among other things. (And again, you really need to look this stuff up.) The order went out, and I looked forward to Tales of Wonder’s excellent service. Well, Tales was on the ball as usual. But as for Uncle Sam’s brave couriers? Therein lies the Peeve!

Actually, it started with whatever distributor supplies Tales with its merchandise. When I didn’t have my Volume 2 after something more than a week, I looked up my order and found that DC had delayed the release of the book by a week. (You’ll remember I wanted to have the boys at Marvel strung up after they delayed The Last Fantastic Four Story, which was already five years behind schedule, for a whole month. Or, if not, see my initial Blog.) However, I knew when I saw JK4W Vol. 2 at my comic-book dealer’s (for full price) that it should soon be coming to me in the mail. Or so I thought. Tales of Wonder would have gotten the thing out to me then—if whatever distributor they use had sent their shipment to the correct address! Yes, the distributor got the order wrong! I should have known I was in trouble at this point. And from here it only got worse.

When Tales finally got the item I was expecting (about a week late by this time), they sent it directly out as they always do. Now, bear in mind, Tales of Wonder is located in Georgia. I live in upstate New York. So, the Post Office relayed my package from Georgia to Springfield, Mass., there to be shipped to my home here in New York. I counted the days from its arrival in Springfield on September 14 (I checked the Postal Website for this) and anticipated I would receive my new hardcover Kirby goodies by this past Monday or Tuesday. Or so I thought. It is now Thursday afternoon, and I still do not have my Kirby’s Fourth World Volume 2. Why? By getting the tracking number from Tales and navigating the labyrinth of the Postal Service’s phone numbers, I determined that my book was sent on September 16 from Springfield to…Nashua, New Hampshire.

I repeat: NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE. I live in the Capital of New York. The Postal geniuses in Springfield sent my book to NEW HAMPSHIRE. The very polite Postal gentleman that I spoke to in Albany told me that I have some chance of receiving it tomorrow, and that I should call him in the morning. I didn’t tell him what I would LIKE to call some of his colleagues in Massachusetts. It might have been a little cathartic, but it would also have been wasted. In the meantime, a book that I ordered at the end of August is still not in my hands at what is almost the end of September, because of an incompetent distributor and an incompetent Postal Service that can’t get a goodamn address right!

And you want to hear something really funny? This isn’t even the first time I’ve had this happen. I had an even worse time last summer when I ordered the collected edition of Marvel’s Sentry Miniseries drawn by John Romita Jr. As usual, Tales of Wonder’s service was spot-on and exemplary. But the roomful of monkeys in Springfield sent it to—are you ready?—WASHINGTON STATE! I live in New York. Those clods and dullards in Springfield sent my order THREE THOUSAND MILES IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. My book finally arrived from Georgia AFTER CROSSING THE ENTIRE FREAKING COUNTRY—TWICE!

This, then, is the first and greatest of my Pet Peeves: the insufferable, abysmal, sickening, stupid, idiotic, moronic, intolerable INCOMPETENCE of people who can’t do their bloody jobs right, which causes ME to suffer bleeding insufferable INCONVENIENCE. I am sitting here composing this Blog wanting to go Postal on the Post Office. I’m telling you, I’m in the mood to do bodily harm to someone. It is just plain inexcusable. And I have no doubt it goes on all the time, to other people who, like me, want nothing more than efficient service when they order something.

In the meantime, there are two more volumes of Kirby’s Fourth World to go, and I’m planning to order them from my friends in Georgia as well. I’m screwing up my courage to do it, because I can just imagine what’s going to happen with Volume 3. I’ll probably receive it two months after I ordered it. And it will probably be flown in from Sri Lanka.

Stupid, incompetent, inconveniencing bastards…

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Raymond Burr. Robert Reed. Roddy McDowall. Agnes Moorehead. Paul Lynde. Dick Sargent. Tyrone Power. Cesar Romero. Danny Kaye. Both of the grandparents on The Waltons. What do all these stars have in common?

Well, the names of Agnes Moorehead, Paul Lynde, and Dick Sargent--all stars of Bewitched--should have been a dead giveaway. (Though even I was surprised at Will Geer and Ellen Corby of The Waltons.) All of these stars were Family. That is, figuratively speaking, my Family. They were gay or lesbian.

This really shouldn't be news to anyone. But this week I had an amusing E-mail exchange about this with my friend Danny B., who lives in the Saratoga/Adirondacks region. Daniel is a straight-but-not-narrow type, a "friend of the Family," if you will. As a little enterprise, Daniel likes to sell vintage movie star photos on eBay. This week, he E-mailed me about his research on his subjects, and how many of them turn out to be gay. I don't think he's really that surprised to find that the entertainment industry is filled with gay and lesbian talent; after socializing with us since he was in college, he's well aware that we're everywhere--and that we're more ubiquitous in some quarters than in others, especially in any creative profession. I just think he's been struck lately with how truly omnipresent we are--and how many of us have not, or do not, declare ourselves.

To the gay and lesbian community, the memo on this is so old that it's turned yellow and brittle and has to be kept hermetically sealed like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The story of gay talent being used, exploited, and profited from, but gays themselves being obliged to remain culturally and socially invisible--passing for heterosexual as some fair-skinned African-Americans were once given to passing for white, and many Jews used to pass for Gentile--is the most ancient text of our history. It was never truer than in Hollywood, the town and the industry that creates and sells American mythology and expects its players to embody the myths. And the most vigilantly guarded of myths has been the one about manly leading men wanting and being with only women in their off-screen lives, and actresses having only men for lovers and husbands. Acting is a profession that attracts homosexuals the way illicit sex seems to attract politicians, but the true identities of many of our screen idols remain cloaked like a Romulan Warbird. If they weren't, it's feared people would flee from the cinemas and turn off their TVs in droves, and vast fortunes would be in jeopardy. It's an empty, needless, futile, and wholly untrue fear, but there it is and it never goes away.

I shouldn't even have to be talking about this. It's the world's greatest non-secret, especially in these days of George Takei and John Barrowman and Ellen DeGeneres and T.R. Knight and Elton John and Dave Koz and Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang and Rupert Everett and Lance Bass and Reichen Lehmkuhl and Chad Allen and Rosie O'Donnell and...see, the list goes on. Even Vicki, the woman in Jay Leno's band, is a lesbian! It's the elephant in the room of the entertainment industry, the thing everyone knows and no one talks about. This very weekend, my science fiction posse, The Alternate Universe (see my links), is planning to gather at Albany's Lesbian and Gay Community Center and invite the Center's patrons to a game of "Name That Homosexual." This little invention of ours is based on the "Bid-a-Note" round of the game show Name That Tune, in which opposing teams bid to see in how few clues they can guess the identity of a famous gay or lesbian person, and not just from show business. ("I can name that homosexual in five clues...I can name that homosexual in two clues...NAME THAT HOMOSEXUAL!" We really ought to pitch this to Game Show Network, but all things in time, I guess.) Over the years, we've had plenty of material to work with, and the list has only grown longer. The secret remains open, very open--but in many quarters, the secrecy persists.

Much progress has been made with the cultural and social visibility of our people, and much progress remains to be desired. As I was telling Daniel, it reminds me of a song parody I wrote for the Alternate Universe Newsletter back in the early 90s. The lyrics remind us of the strides we've taken since then, and the strides we've yet to take. Want to know exactly what kind of twisted intelligence you're dealing with when you come to this Blog? Warble this one, if you so desire, to the tune of Lerner and Loew's Camelot:

The Bible Belt says Armageddon's nearing

And homosexuality's no good.

And we'll give in to everything they're fearing

In Hollywood.

The fundamentalists are all complaining

That loving one's own sex one never should.

So we'll keep closet doors locked and restraining

In Hollywood.

Hollywood! Hollywood! No queers in films or on TV.

Hollywood! Hollywood! As hetero as can be.

Appearances must stay close to the mainstream.

In private it's a fairy neighborhood.

So this is our refrain: My friend, we must maintain

That dykes and fags are nonexistent

Here in Hollywood!

Same-sex attraction can't be seen by children.

We think the public's mind is made of wood.

We'll play it straight and keep on making millions

In Hollywood.

Our stars, they never sleep with their own gender.

Be lesbian or gay, they never could.

And that's the way we make our legal tender

In Hollywood.

Hollywood! Hollywood! We're heterosexual through and through.

Hollywood! Hollywood! That's Tinsel Town to you.

So homosexuals with eyes on show biz,

Invisible you'll stay or it's no good.

For we perpetuate the image that we're straight,

So homophobes will line our pockets

Here in Hollywood!

Yep, we just love our show tunes, don't we...?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


This is my very first Blog, the beginning of what I hope will be a weekly get-together. But while this Blog is a first, its subject will be the last. That is, The Last Fantastic Four Story.

Really, the last one. That’s it. Finito. No more after this one. It’s all over. Truly the last.

Of course, you know that’s not exactly true. The real, regular Fantastic Four comic book will go on until the grandchildren of its current fans are old enough to read it (in fact, its latest issue was released simultaneously with this one-shot special), and on beyond that. There will still be other comics based on The FF. And I expect there will still be FF films and TV programs and video games and whatever other forms of entertainment people may invent in the future. But for the purposes of Stan Lee, the creator (with Jack Kirby) of Marvel’s original heroes, this is the last Fantastic Four story. Stick a fork in it; it’s done.

The Last Fantastic Four Story is not to be confused with Fantastic Four: The End. That latter was a six-issue miniseries by writer/artist Alan Davis, which concluded early this year. Actually, Stan Lee’s project with artist John Romita Jr. was the thing that Marvel originally wanted. When they first coined the concept of imagining the possible last stories and adventures of their heroes, they immediately determined to do the last adventure of the Fantastic Four, and very fittingly they wanted Stan Lee himself to write it. Stan was there at the beginning of The FF, which was the beginning of Marvel as we know it; he should tell the story for the end. The trouble was that the artist selected for the project was their very best artist, John Romita Jr., and John Jr.’s dance card was very full. Aside from his work on Spider-Man (to which he’ll be returning in the latter part of next year), John has been busily making the rounds of the Marvel Universe for the last several years, doing stints on Wolverine, The Black Panther, The Sentry, and The Eternals. His and Stan’s “End of the FF” project kept getting put on hold and pushed back, even though it was at the top of Marvel’s agenda.

What this meant to me was about five years of salivating over the prospect of seeing an entire, full-length Fantastic Four story illustrated by John Romita Jr., who has become the only serious rival to the great George “Pacesetter” Perez for the position of my favorite artist in comics. Over these years I’ve seen tantalizing glimpses of what John Jr. would do with the FF, including a gorgeous issue of Wolverine in which old Insubordinate Claws gets his regenerating butt handed to him by our cosmic-powered cadre. (Odds are that in future Blogs we will be discussing my feelings about Wolverine and other things that turn me off about today’s comics; suffice it to say that I found a whole issue of Edward Talon Hands taking on Marvel’s first and finest characters and getting a righteous clobbering, and having it all drawn by my favorite artist #1A, deeply gratifying. Every so often I just have to take out that issue and admire it—and that’s about what it takes to get me to buy a comic book starring a character I detest.) But still, I wanted to see an actual FF book by John Jr.—and I especially wanted to see an actual FF book by John Jr., written by Stan Lee himself! What is it going to take to get this damn thing out already, I wondered.

I wondered this for five years. Five years I wondered, five years I waited. And at last, this year, with the approaching release of the movie Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Marvel got the lead out of its and John Jr.’s respective cans, got him hunkered down at the drawing board, and had him finish this book! In the interim, they commissioned Alan Davis to do Fantastic Four: The End, which turned out to be a really sweet piece of work; I’ve reviewed it and a lot of other FF material over at my friend Sean Kleefeld’s site; Stan and John Jr.’s project was retitled The Last Fantastic Four Story and scheduled for release on August 1, 2007.

And so what did Marvel do? As I waited with worms on my tongue (baited breath) for the first of August, they DELAYED THE DAMN THING! Five years I’d been waiting, and THEY DELAYED IT! Pushed it back from the beginning of the month to the END of the month! I swear, I could have killed them. I could have gone up to 417 5th Avenue in Manhattan and gunned down the whole freaking lot of them like the Punisher--another character I hate. See how P-O’ed I was? They had me relating to characters that I can’t stand! FIVE YEARS of waiting, and they keep me waiting for ANOTHER FREAKING MONTH ON TOP OF THAT? For that, I should have gotten The Last Fantastic Four Story hand delivered to my house with Stan and John Jr.’s autographs on it. Five years and a month, I’m telling you… In the immortal words of Irving Forbush (look him up if you don’t know classic Marvel), “SHEESH!”

The reward for all that waiting is, visually, one of the most satistying comic books you’ll ever see. John Romita Jr., reunited here with his former Spider-Man inker Scott Hanna, has done as beautiful a job as I’d hoped. It really is 48 pages of loveliness, generally speaking. (I was hoping for the 64 pages that Marvel indicated on its company Website.) Okay, I question his use of the pudgy, professorial Watcher instead of the slender and more alien Watcher with a head reminiscent of the flying saucer jockeys of urban myth, which is the more preferred version. And John seemed a little confused about the Thing’s attire. Was Benjy wearing his trunks or his long shorts, with or without an FF insignia on the belt? The answer appears to have been “yes”. And I would have liked to see the traditional Fantastic Four logo on the cover, the way it is on the poster of the cover, which I picked up the prior week. But otherwise, it’s a great-looking book. My greatest “Oohs” and “Aahs” go to pages 15-18, 25, 26, 28, 29, 34, 36, and 41 and 42 (a sensational double-page spread—and by the way, I’m counting the page after the frontispiece, the page with the sparrow falling to Earth, as page 1). Outstanding!

As for the story: This is a very classic Stan Lee plot that would have notched in very comfortably with the FF stories that Stan and Jack were doing in the mid-to-late 1960s. In a nutshell, a super-race called the Cosmic Tribunal has decided that we of Earth are too greedy, prejudiced, and warlike to live. So they send a creature called The Adjudicator, who is bigger than a Celestial (from Kirby’s The Eternals), to pass sentence on us. The Adjudicator appears in multiple bodies across the globe to tell us that we have been selected for extinction in a week, and don’t bother doing anything but set our affairs in order because the Cosmic Tribunal is so powerful that they need only think something and it happens--or doesn’t, if they so desire. (This begs the question of whether the Cosmic Tribunal is any relation to the Living Tribunal from Dr. Strange, but let’s not give ourselves any more headaches than we need…) They are essentially a race of Cosmic Cubes. Naturally, Earth’s super-heroes, led by our Fantastic Four, try to stand up to The Adjudicator anyway (after he obligingly reduces one of his bodies to about ten feet in height and stands implacably in Central Park), and the result of their efforts is about equivalent to the temperature on Pluto; namely, absolute zero. It bears mentioning that The Adjudicator is a bizarre-looking creature with hooks for hands and peg legs. He should have had a parrot on his shoulder and an eye patch, and I kept mentally putting pirate dialogue in his word balloons: “Avast, ye Earthers! Ye’re a lot of scurvy swabs, and it’s the deep six for the lot o’ ye! AARRR, shiver me timbers! Hoist the main sail and swab the poopdeck, ye’re doomed every one!”

I think you can pretty much tell from this story that Stan Lee is basically out of the loop about all the characters he (and Kirby, and Steve Ditko, etc.) created in the 60s. This yarn, which is understood to be occurring in a possible near future of the Marvel Universe we know, must be set in an alternate reality. (But then again, so was FF: The End.) The opening scenes touch on a premise that goes back about as far as Fantastic Four #9 and The Amazing Spider-Man #1; namely, that the FF’s wealth does not match the team’s glamourous image. Supposedly they’re not in it for the money and they’re not getting rich this way; the Fantastic Four is a purely humanitarian effort. The trouble is that this has more recently been changed. Particularly in the modern FF stories of Mark Waid and J. Michael Straczynski, we learn that Reed’s inventions and patents, and the Fantastic Four Corporation that handles all the team’s commercial licensing and endorsements, have all indeed made the FF wealthy. In fact, when the government seized the FF’s assets a while back, we learned that Reed had put Ben’s earnings into a separate trust, and Ben himself was phenomenally rich (at least until he was on his way out of the country during the damn Civil War—I’ve no doubt we’ll be talking about that event and that epithet in weeks ahead—and the Feds caught him at the airport). But at the beginning of this story, it’s back to the old “We don’t make a cent doing this; what are we in it for?” I wish editor Tom Brevoort had brought Stan a little more up to speed about that.

Also, Reed and Sue Richards have two children now. Franklin doesn’t show up until the United Nations sequence and the farewell scene at the end, but where is little Valeria? And the Inhuamans—have they relocated back from the Moon to the Himalayas, or are they just being territorial or trying to help out in that sequence on pages 30 and 31?

For the biggest disappointment of this story, I need drop only one name: Doctor Doom. In interviews about this book, Stan mentioned the world’s greatest arch-villain—and the FF’s number-one nemesis—would be playing a major part in the proceedings, at which point I had to get a napkin to cope with the salivating. “Yes…Stan Lee, John Romita Jr., the FF, and Dr. Doom! Yes, must see it! Must see it!” And what role does Doom actually play? He’s present for about five panels and proves as ineffectual against The Adjudicator as everyone else. This is Stan’s idea of a major role? Heck, they might as well have brought on Willie Lumpkin to twitch his ears at The Adjudicator! I mean, by my thinking, if you’re going to do “The Last Adventure of the Fantastic Four,” it really ought to be a clash between the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom that is so big, so nasty, so devastating, that it shakes every part of every continent on the globe and is felt as far out as the Shi’Ar Galaxy. It ought to be the throw-down to end all throw-downs between the greatest comic-book enemies there ever were. It should be an FF/Doom fight that would have people’s teeth rattling over at DC Comics! “But no…!” What a bummer. (Actually, Alan Davis in his miniseries did a better job with Doom, but even that left you wanting more.)

To his credit, at least Stan demonstrates one more time how to write the Silver Surfer correctly. Too many writers since the 1980s have taken the lofty, lonely, poetic quality out of the Surfer’s words and made him sound too much like a regular person. Stan reminds us of how to write this character, whose speech pattern Stan himself established: “ Though my heart and soul ever crave companionship, none who live are as lonely as I. Yet, ‘tis here among the stars that I am most at peace…” The Surfer doesn’t talk like someone you’d meet at the Mall, and Stan brings us back to that. And on the subject of the alabaster altruist from outer space, I’ve never considered the Surfer to be one of John Romita Jr.’s best characters. On the fleeting few occasions before this that John Jr. has drawn the Surfer, I never thought he quite “got” the character. But here, he’s risen to the occasion and brought his best game. The renderings of the Kelly Slater of the Cosmos in this tale are really nice; I especially love the shot of the Surfer jumping on his board on page 25. Good job, John.

One rather worrisome thing about the plot (and I’m not the only one to bring this up; it’s also mentioned in the review of this book at is that the gathered Marvel super-heroes are too quick to accept the apparent futility of the situation. After attacking The Adjudicator for a few pages to no effect, they all decide they’re doomed. Is this what we expect of the Fantastic Four, who have beaten back Galactus more times than Rachael Ray has beaten egg whites? Is this what we expect of Captain America, who took on the Red Skull when the Skull had the Cosmic Cube and licked him within ten pages? Or Thor, who has stood up to everything from the Destroyer to Mangog to the Celestials to a bad Movie of the Week? I understand what Stan was trying to get across here, that the Cosmic Tribunal is a lot of bad mother-shut-your-mouths and this time we’re really up against the wall and it’s never been so desperate, but the Marvel super-heroes are not quitters. They—and we—would never have survived to face the Cosmic Tribunal if they had been. This part of the story really doesn’t ring true.

For the resolution of this whole mess, Reed has the Silver Surfer call Galactus, who tells the Surfer where to find the only creatures who can stop the Cosmic Tribunal: another new race of alien heavies called the Decimators. Creatures without thought who live only to kill (i.e., a race of rugby players), the Decimators are supposedly impervious to the Tribunal’s powers. This, I don’t get. Perhaps the Tribunal can’t attack the Decimators via telepathy or empathy, but what makes the Decimators invulnerable to the physical effects of the Tribunal’s powers? What stops the Tribunal just wishing these creatures into nothingness? There’s no time to discuss or elaborate on any of this, because by this point we have just a few pages to go, and Stan has one last plot twist to pull out of his hat. After The Adjudicator, in all its bodies, flees Earth, Reed decides the FF can’t just leave the Tribunal to its fate. Even as he decided to save Galactus’s life in John Byrne’s classic FF #244, he now leads the FF, the Surfer, and Galactus to the Tribunal’s planet to drive off the Decimators. This part, at least, rings true to character. Mr. Fantastic, like the crews of Star Trek, reveres all life—even life that wants to destroy him. So, after that gorgeous double-page spread on pages 41 and 42, the Cosmic Tribunal decides that if the Fantastic Four were willing to save them after the Tribunal wanted humanity wiped out, perhaps these Earth folk aren’t so bad after all. They send the FF home to a hero’s welcome, and in the end the FF decide that they have now officially “done it all” and they can retire and live like ordinary people. (Yeah, how many times have we seen this in the regular comic book: the FF trying to live like regular people—who can stretch and burst into flame and make themselves invisible, who’ve been to other galaxies and traveled in time and have portals to antimatter universes in their house? Marvel keeps trotting out this idea, and it never gets any less dumb.) So, with their Fantasticar and flying moving van all packed, they turn out the lights in the Baxter Building, and off they go into history.

Frankly, this whole mess could have been settled in just a few pages. All Reed would have had to do was say to The Adjudicator, “Listen, you don’t like our greed and bigotry and aggression; we understand. So why don’t you just take all the Republicans?” However, as we’ve seen, the leader of the Fantastic Four is just too humane for a thing like that. (Shucks!)

That’s it, then: THE END. This has truly been the last Fantastic Four story, after which there are no more!

All things considered, The Last Fantastic Four Story was fun to read in a way that Marvel comics really aren’t fun to read these days. It was a classic story of Marvel heroes in their classic form, battling an adversary—if not an outright villain—of terrifying power, and saving the day in spite of their own frailties and personal conflicts. It wasn’t an “edgy” or “cutting-edge” or overly long, “decompressed” story. It wasn’t a revisionist or deconstructionist piece of work. It moved along at a brisk pace, telling its story economically. It wasn’t verbose or wordy, with characters almost suffocating in their own word balloons. It didn’t try to take the basic principles of comic-book storytelling that Marvel originated to some esoteric or cynical extreme. It wasn’t created for kids who don’t know their history or (supposedly) have low attention spans. It was just the kind of story that Marvel invented, drawn in an exceptionally beautiful style. People who complain about it not being all the things that I just mentioned (like the reviewer at Comic Book Resources) are really not getting the point. In these days of Bendises and Millars and Gaimans and Morrisons, The Last Fantastic Four Story is a reminder of what pure Marvel comics were like. And I guess it was worth the wait, just to see Stan work with these characters one last time.

So, this was my first Blog. Every weekend, I’m going to do my damnedest to have a new one. Even if it’s just a drawing and a note, I’m going to try to be here with something. (And by the way, a lot of my drawings will be at Frequently it will be about comics, and the comic book that will come up here most often will no doubt be The Fantastic Four. And if you want to read any more of my ramblings about “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”, a lot of them are archived at When this Blog is not about comics, it will likely deal with other areas of pop culture, in particular television and film, sometimes music. (But beware: I AM A JAZZ FAN.) And when it’s not about comics you know, it will likely be about comics—or other storytelling or artistic projects--that I’ve created and am planning. My projects are like the Hordes of Hydra in Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD: Cut one off and two more will take its place! (And I should also warn you, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of pop-culture allusions if you’re going to hang out here, so be ready to look up things that I mention, because I can’t promise I’ll stop to explain everything.) Or, some weeks, it could be about almost anything that might be on my mind. I have something on my mind just about 24/7, and I’ve created this space to have a place to put it.

And if I’m so fortunate that you visit The Quantum Blog and acutally like what you see and read here, please do me the favor of telling and inviting your friends. I can use all the validation I can get.

Tell next weekend…


J.A. Fludd